Personal Concepts About "Crime and Punishment" -- Results of a Qualitative Interview Analysis

Harald Kania, Max-Planck-Institute
Joachim Obergfell-Fuchs, Max-Planck-Institute for Criminal Law
Helmut Kury, Max-Planck-Institute

ABSTRACT
Previous criminological research on attitudes towards crime and punishment has essentially relied on the so-called quantitative methodology, in particular by applying standardised questionnaires. Complementary to that, the design of the presented study is basically qualitative, i.e., participants were free to say, whatever they think to be important. Using an in-depth qualitative interviewing technique, 18 German laypersons, selected by gender, age and socio-economic status, were asked about their regarding attitudes and their (customarily implicit) personal constructs about crime and punishment. All interviews were digitally audio-taped, transcribed verbatim and subsequently analysed using qualitative content analysis. The results unfold the basic elements of the participants' subjective theories and concepts. Considering these results, we hope to evaluate and substantiate the concept of "punitiveness" in a psychologically more adequate manner, particularly in light of its increasing popularity in recent criminological research and political debate. Eventually, this will also provide future research with more contour and life, thus (hopefully) operationalising the concepts in question more validly.

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Updated 05/20/2006